Cover image for The bingo queens of Paradise
The bingo queens of Paradise
Park, June, 1934-
Personal Author:
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Cliff Street Books, [1999]

Physical Description:
280 pages ; 25 cm
Geographic Term:
Format :


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X Adult Fiction Central Closed Stacks

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In Oklahoma, where Kraft Macaroni & Cheese is a staple and Bob Barker is king, twenty-eight-year-old Darla Moon struggles to break free and pursue her dreams. A talented seamstress and designer, she is cursed with a semiretired hooker for a mother, a hypochondriac for a sister, a no-good loafer for a brother-in-law, a frog-collecting grandma, and Momma's British lesbian friends, Muff and Freda Bottrell--"Clairvoyants and Tea Leaf Readers Extraordinaire." To make matters worse, Darla lives in Paradise, a drought-ridden bend in the road that's spitting distance from Lamb of God Pentecostal Church and Big Bucks Bingo--a world away from where she wants to be, New York City. But Darla is blessed with the devotion of Elijah True, an elderly black man who nurtured her through childhood; the friendship of Brandy, the town's lonely beautician; and the unexpected love of the Reverend Spirit E. Jackson, a transplanted Australian who drives into town in an old white Cadillac and sweeps her off her feet.

Sadly, as Darla formulates her plan to escape Paradise, turmoil erupts. Family once more stands between her and her suitcase. Momma runs off with a long-distance trucker, Darla's sister is hospitalized with cancer, her sister's two children are sick with worry, and brother-in-law Frank is thrown in jail--charged with impregnating a neighbor's sixteen-year-old daughter. Left unsupervised, Granny gets into trouble of her own, and Pearl, Darla's fourteen-year-old niece, can't cope with her world. Torn between her love for Spirit, her love for Elijah and young Jesse, her keen sense of duty, and the pursuit of a dream, Darla must, for the first time in her life, cast an unflinching eye on all the hard-to-accept truths regarding love, responsibility, and survival.

The Bingo Queens of Paradise is a tour-de-force first novel that lyrically blends a powerful comic voice with a poignant tale of a woman who longs to escape her life and follow her dreams.

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Paradise, a dusty, one-streetlight Oklahoma town without a movie theater, bank, dry cleaners, or supermarket, is ill-named. Jed's Dance Barn and a neighboring town's drive-in are the only entertainment venues, except for the irresistible Big Bucks Bingo, where the poor, like Darla Moon and her relatives, go several times weekly and gamble away their disability and welfare checks. Darla, 28, dreams her seamstress-designer talents will be her ticket out and away from her semiretired hooker mother; her sickly sister, married to a no-good loafer; and her dotty grandmother, who collects invisible frogs, wears a wire hanger on her head as an antenna to receive messages from God, and wraps her legs in newspaper every night to prevent blood cell irradiation. When a hunky, itinerant preacher sends Darla's heart aflutter, it looks like the way out has arrived at last. Then family needs intervene and . . . well, you get the picture, which could show up on picture tubes as one of the more entertaining movies of the week. --Whitney Scott

Publisher's Weekly Review

Other than the dance barn and the drive-in, the only entertainment available in Paradise, Okla., a one-traffic-light town where the bank and movie house have long been boarded up, is Big Bucks Bingo. Darla Moon, 28, a seamstress and designer of Darling Darla Creations, dreams of escaping to New York City, but she's trapped in her hometown by her zany, sharp-tongued and often pathetic family. She has a special bond to her chronically troubled younger sister, Rhonda, whose third marriage has tied her to an abusive man, and whose two children are Darla's delight. This supple, snappy first novel introduces Darla in 1976 as an eight-year-old left in charge of six-year-old Rhonda and their sometimes senile and occasionally brilliant grandmother, Sophie, who receives "divine messages" from the Planet of Headbreakers, while their mother, Roxie, the town prostitute, goes out "dancing." The girls have no idea who their father is, and the many "uncles" who traipse through their house can be as cruel to them as Roxie is. But love and comfort can always be found at the home of Elijah, a black man about their granny's age, who's Darla's best friend. And under extraordinary circumstances, Darla's guardian angel, Shamir, sometimes appears to her. Grown-up Darla copes with guilt over an abortion and haunting memories of her mother's activities; she also falls in love with Reverend Spirit E. Jackson, the new preacher in town. Love makes Darla stronger but ties her all the more firmly to the place she longs to leave. When Rhonda's husband goes on a rampage and Rhonda herself becomes seriously ill, it seems Darla will never be free to pursue her dream, but readers can be sure that this resilient, clever protagonist will find a way to take control of her life. Park's characters form a colorful ensemble, from the brave and wily homespun heroine to the defensive, insensitive Roxie. This strange and involving tale sparkles with a sharp humor that ignites its richly textured setting. (June) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

This debut novel by an award-winning short-story writer proves that on rare occasions the transition from short story writer to novelist can be seamless. In this dramatic story, set in the isolated town of Paradise, OK, Darla Moon dreams of going to New York and making a living as a designer. Darla and her sister, Rhonda, were raised by an indifferent alcoholic mother who worked as a prostitute, leaving her daughters' care to an elderly black man named Elijah. Darla admits that they "even smelled poor, that unwashed, uncared-for-stink that comes from too little soap, too much cigarette smoke, and no affection." When Rhonda, who marries an abusive husband, becomes critically ill, Darla takes care of Rhonda's children and makes a drastic decision about her future when she learns further truths about her tragic past. This memorable book pulsates with heartfelt characters and rousing events that will anger and bring tears. A rare gem; recommended for all collections.ÄDavid A. Beron„, Univ. of New England, Biddeford, ME (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.